Obtaining a Rental Car After a Motor Vehicle Accident
As a FREE service, we help our clients with the issues surrounding their vehicle damage and rental car.
The law in the state of Texas states that if your vehicle can be repaired, then the insurance company is obligated to repair your car and provide you with a rental car while your car is in the shop being repaired. Additionally, if the damage to your vehicle was the type of damage that would cause the value of your vehicle to decrease, then you are entitled to receive the diminished value of your vehicle as well.
If your vehicle is a total loss (meaning it cannot be economically repaired), then the insurance company must pay you the fair market value of your vehicle.
We can assist you at no cost in dealing with the insurance company either 1) to get your vehicle repaired and get you a rental car or 2) to obtain the fair market value of your vehicle if your vehicle is a total loss.
How to Cover Your Car Rental, Repair and Replacement after a Crash
Like most people, your car may be one of your favorite possessions. It could be a sports car or a luxury car that you saved for years to buy, or it could be a less fancy model that you simply cherish for its reliability or because it was passed down to you by a loved one.
This is why you may be feeling devastated right now after seeing your car get seriously damaged or “totaled” in a crash caused by another driver. Of course, you may also be facing an emergency: That car may have been your only source of transportation. You may be wondering, “How will I get to work tomorrow?”
At Tate Law Offices, we know how important it will be for you to get your car repaired or replaced as soon as possible after a crash. We also know how crucial it is for you to have rental car coverage after an accident.
For this reason – and as a free service – we help our clients to deal with the legal issues surrounding their vehicle damage and car rental after they have been injured in a crash. Below, we explain how the process works in Texas.
To learn more, call us today or reach us online. We can provide a free consultation from our offices in Dallas, Fort Worth or Houston. Chances are if your car was totaled you might be serious injured, our firm can help.
How Does Auto Insurance Company Cover My Vehicle Damage?
When your vehicle is damaged in a wreck caused by another person’s negligence, you will have a property damage claim. This claim typically is handled separate from a claim for your bodily injuries or the loss of a loved one.
However, like a personal injury or wrongful death claim, a property damage claim after an auto accident will involve seeking compensation through available insurance coverage – both the at-fault driver’s insurance and, perhaps, your own.
The different types of auto insurance policies that may come into play in your case include:
- Liability – All drivers who register their vehicles in Texas must carry a minimum amount of liability insurance. This insurance pays for the bodily injury or property damage that the person causes in a crash. Currently, under Texas law, a driver must have a minimum of $25,000 in property damage liability coverage. So, if another driver damaged your car, you would file a claim with his or her insurer.
- Property Damage UM / UIM – If the driver who damages your car lacks insurance, flees the scene (hit-and-run) or has insurance that fails to fully cover your vehicle damage claim, then you could file a claim with your own insurer through your property damage uninsured motorist/underinsured motorist policy. Unless you rejected this coverage in writing, you have should have this coverage in a minimum amount of $15,000 (unless you elected to carry a higher limit).
- Collision – If you are financing your car, the lender has likely required you to have collision coverage. This coverage pays for repair or replacement of your car if damage occurs in a collision with another vehicle – regardless of who was at fault. However, most auto insurance policies require you to pay a deductible.
- Comprehensive – Like collision, most lenders make it mandatory for you to have this coverage while you are still paying off your vehicle loan. Comprehensive coverage pays for repair or replacement of a vehicle that is damaged in a non-collision. For instance, this coverage kicks in if your car is stolen, catches fire or gets damaged in a flood or due to vandalism. You will have to pay a deductible.
- Other Types of Coverage – You may have also purchased a policy that will pay for the towing of your car and labor such as battery replacement. (Some people choose to use AAA for those services). You may also have a policy that covers damage to special equipment in your car such as your stereo system.
At Tate Law Offices, we can review all insurance policies involved in your case – the at-fault driver’s coverage and your own. We can help you to determine what is available to you.
Can I Get a Rental While My Car Is Being Repaired?
Now that you know more about the insurance coverage options that may be available in your case, let’s focus on what will likely be your first concern after a crash: Getting a rental car. Three insurance policies, including one we have not discussed yet, may be relied on:
- Liability – Under Texas law, the at-fault driver’s liability insurer must provide you with a rental while your car is being repaired. You should demand the same type of car as you had before. For example, if you were driving a SUV, you should not be given an economy car as a rental. If necessary, Tate Law Offices can contact the insurer on your behalf and help you to secure a rental.
- Comprehensive – If you have purchased comprehensive coverage, your own insurer should provide you with a rental during the period when your car is repaired. Again, your lawyer at Tate Law Offices can seek this rental for you.
- Rental Reimbursement – Some insurance policies include a policy that will cover the costs of a rental while your car is being repaired or replaced – regardless of who was at fault. We can review your policy and work with your insurer to make sure you receive the rental you are entitled to receive.
Again, we will work hard to secure a rental for you as a free service. We provide this service at no cost to you because we know how important it will be for you to have safe, reliable transportation while your case is being resolved. You can always write a demand letter as well.
Will My Car Be Repaired or Replaced?
Once your immediate transportation needs are met through a rental car, your focus will be on whether your car should be repaired or whether it should be replaced.
This decision will be made by the insurance adjuster who is handling your property damage claim. We can protect your rights throughout this process.
First, the insurer will conduct an inspection of your vehicle and arrive at an estimate of what it will cost to repair the accident-related damage. In some cases, the insurer will use a repair shop to provide this estimate or will allow you to provide estimates from shops you have contacted.
Second, the insurer will determine the “actual cash value” (ACV) of your vehicle. The ACV is, in general terms, the value of your car if it had not been damaged in a crash, taking into account the car’s make, model, year, mileage and wear and tear.
Based on this information, the insurer will calculate the “total loss ratio,” or compare the cost of repairs with the actual cash value. Under Texas law, if the cost of repairs matches or exceeds the car’s ACV, the insurer must declare your car to be “totaled.”
For instance, let’s say that your car’s ACV is determined to be $7,500. If the cost of repairs comes out to $7,500, the insurer could be required to “total” it and pay you the ACV. However, if the cost of repairs came out to less — $3,000 for example – then the insurer would need to pay for it to be repaired.
What Are My Rights If My Car Is Repaired?
If the insurer decides to pay for repair of your car, you will have certain rights during the repair process that must be protected.
The insurer may give you a list of “preferred” local mechanics or repair shops. You can certainly choose to get your vehicle repairs done by one of these vendors. But under Texas law, you are not required to do so. Instead, you can insist that your repairs are done by a mechanic of your choice.
If an insurer tries to force you to get your repairs done by one of its chosen mechanics, Tate Law Offices can help you to overcome this challenge.
However, if you choose your own mechanic to do the repairs, you should be aware of two things:
- The insurer will pay only for accident-related damage
- In no case will the insurer pay for repairs that exceed the car’s ACV.
At Tate Law Offices, we certainly understand why you would want your car repaired rather than “totaled.” After all, some cars carry an intangible value to us that make us want to hold on to them rather than sending them to the salvage yard.
If the insurance company has a legal obligation to repair your car, we will do everything we can to protect your right to have your car repaired – and for the work to be done by the mechanic of your choice.
What Are My Rights If My Car Is Totaled?
In some cases, you may want your car to be “totaled” rather than repaired.
For instance, let’s say your car has an ACV of $15,000, while the repair estimates come out to $10,000. Technically, the insurer could be obligated to pay for repair of your car. However, because of the extensive amount of work that will need to be done, you may prefer to simply buy a new car that has not been in a crash.
Your lawyer from Tate Law Offices can help you to negotiate with the insurance company and seek having your car declared a total loss so that you can receive a check for the ACV.
In other cases, a person may want to repair a car even if it is declared a total loss. If you are in this situation, you can hold on to your car by simply allowing the insurer to deduct the car’s “salvage value” from ACV that it pays you.
Of course, a key point of contention in your case may be arriving at the ACV. Insurance companies may turn to sources such as the Kelley Blue Book or their own databases or software systems.
If you disagree with the ACV amount that the insurer arrives at in your case, Tate Law Offices can help you to research and present a different figure. We can determine what cars of the same make, model, year and mileage as your car are being sold for in your area.
We can also come up with a figure based on special features of your car such as a custom stereo system or other upgrades.
Can I Recover for My Car’s Diminished Value?
When your car is repaired after an accident, it may allow you to get the car back on the road “as good as new.” However, the reality is that the car will have likely lost significant resale or trade-in value simply because it was involved in a crash.
It is very easy today for consumers to learn about a car’s accident history through online services such as Carfax. Generally speaking, most people want to avoid a car that has been damaged in an accident – even if it was repaired.
If your car loses value after a crash, despite repairs, then you have the right to bring a diminished value claim. In other words, you can seek a recovery that represents the difference between your car’s current value and the value it would have held if it had not been in a crash.
It is important to note that you can pursue a diminished value claim only if the damage was caused by another driver. You cannot bring a claim if you contributed to the harm to your car.
Tate Law Offices can help you to file a diminished value claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. If the insurer refuses to pay a full and fair settlement of your claim, we can help you with filing a lawsuit in the proper court.
Get Help from Our Dallas Car Accident Lawyers
We believe in treating our clients the right way – as reflected in our “10 Promises to You.”
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston or elsewhere in Texas, please contact us today for a free consultation. We are ready to get to work on your case right away.
Sources / More Information
- Automobile Insurance Made Easy, Texas Department of Insurance
- When Is a Vehicle Declared a Total Loss? Claims Journal
- Tips for Negotiating the Actual Cash Value of Your Car, CarsDirect.com